The thrill and smell of chocolate is something most have long since been accustomed to, but for a dark time, the thrill was only something to dream about. During Soviet times in Estonia, a special fake chocolate was concocted to soothe the sweet tooth during times when a lack of chocolate and comfort foods abounded.
Kalev chocolates have been around since Swiss candy maker, Lorenz Caviezel, opened shop in Tallinn, on Pikk tänav, in 1806. Some sixty years later, George Stude purchased the business and grew it into a world renowned sweet success. So popular was the production that even the tsar ordered from Stude during the Russian Empire. Flash forward 110 years and Europe found itself in a cocoa shortage crisis, raising prices to extraordinary levels, making chocolate virtually unobtainable.
However, the Kalev company, years before, perhaps in anticipation of a potential crisis, began the planning and production of a secret type of confection, a faux chocolate. A mysterious mixture of peas, barley, wheat, rye and Estonian flour, it was called Kamarene. This was then blended with available supplies of evaporated milk, a bit of cocoa powder, and coffee to make the bar known as Kamatahvel, or the Kama bar. This bar quickly became one of the most popular sweets as chocolate disappeared from the shelves in the 1970s, and the bar’s success lasted until 1991, when Estonia gained independence and chocolate could be freely acquired. The company stopped making the bar for 20 years after independence until 2001, when it was brought back due to popular (and, perhaps, nostalgic) demand. Its attractive price and distinctive yellow and red package is the fourth best-selling item Kalev produces these days and the Kama bar is not going anywhere any time soon.
In Latvia, one finds a plethora of chocolate options. From the classic and nostalgic delights of Laima, to the perfectly spherical truffles of Pure, the Latvian sweet tooth demands options.
Dreams of the forest, love of nature, and visions of wood sprites have inspired a truly Baltic northern chocolate delight. Latvia’s Nelleulla chocolates have woven forest and fantasy to create their image and flavors. With unique truffle flavors such as cognac-fig, basil-mango, and rum-black currant, their selection is sure to please the most discerning of palates. The company draws inspiration from the North. Northern Lights, northern forests, and the magic that they hold. Indeed, their key message is “Wild Beauty.” Using a balance of light and dark, their sweet and sour flavors bring together the taste of the rich chocolates with the tangy fillings. Their chocolates are as packed with character as they are with fresh and innovative ingredients. Additionally, the company is run entirely by women, from the beginning to end of the process, a unique standard in the industry.
One of the most creative chocolatiers seen in recent years hails from Lithuania. Tucked away in a village in the eastern countryside is one of the most inventive chocolate companies. Chocolate Naïve is anything but, and Lithuania’s only bean-to-bar chocolate maker, taking incredible care in each step of the chocolate making process to make the most perfect confection.
The flavors are sure to confuse the mind and boggle the tongue, not something one can often say about chocolate. With flavors such as dark chocolate with porcini mushroom, dark chocolate with hops, and cocoa bean origins from far flung locations such as Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Peru, and Madagascar, their chocolate bars are most painstakingly and well-crafted. Every morning, beans are roasted and fill the air with the smell of pure chocolate. Their bars can be found in the US, as well as luxury food stores in the UK. What makes the company unique in the chocolate world, in addition to roasting and conching their own beans, is that they also use the Peruvian Nacional bean, a rather rare cocoa bean only discovered in 2011, as opposed to more commonly used Ecuadorian Nacional.
This winter, seek comfort in the sweet treats of childhood or new and inventive pleasures to be found among old favorites.
Chocolate Naïve founder Domantas Užpalis perhaps described human’s relationship with chocolate best by saying: “It has been a constant companion that has seen me grow from a carefree youth to a quixotic adult. Chocolate is as luxuriant as my most vivid dream and as humble as my simple reality.”
Photos courtesy of Nelleulla